Rating the performance of UK grant-making foundations on their accountability, transparency and diversity

Anything that looks to improve the practices of foundations is A Good Thing in my book, so I was really interested to read about this new piece of work which will rate the performance of UK grant-making foundations on their accountability, transparency and diversity, being led by Friends Provident Foundation. I also appreciate that they are looking for input, so I guess this blog post is mine. I will do the survey, but wanted to share openly too because … transparency!

These are the things I’d like to see, based on my personal experience of being a grant seeker and a grant maker.

Share who you hire as consultants and the process by which you’ve recruited them.

Share who you have ‘coffees’ with.

Share what training and development your staff have each year.

Share your recruitment practices.

Share what you mean by diversity and then how you work with it.

And then other things that feel important to this work are -

The background text talks about people who are traditionally not present in positions of power” and I’d like to see some more nuance brought to this. There are other reasons people aren’t present in positions of power that are not identity related — and instead are determined by what we value, what we feel reassured by, our appetite for risk — and more.

The background text also talks about “some foundations under-investing in certain types of organisations and movements” and that they “do not always reflect the population as a whole.” I know this is unlikely to be a popular view but can we also make sure that includes the outliers, the innovators, the risk-takers? These folk might be the same people that get labelled as ‘the most marginalised’ or the most ‘unrepresented’ but they definitely aren’t always. I see funders (as they should be) paying much more attention to those that are marginalised through an identity lens, but not considering anywhere near enough some of the people who are really breaking new ground and just aren’t on the radar of more traditional or out-of-date foundations.

The background text talks about it being “time for a new conversation on who they fund and what they fund.” Can we also include how they fund to please? And if we are making funders accountable for their practices — are we sure we know what good looks like? I don’t just want reform and modernism, I want radical, regenerative, system-shifting ambitions. This links to a blog I wrote last week.

I loved seeing broader society acknowledged in this line “charity effectiveness and responsibility are based on transparency and accountability to those they support, and to society more widely” and wonder if this blog, a critique of user-centred design and how it fails to be accountable, might be useful for thinking through some different layers, levels or scales of accountability.

Lastly, I would look at this thread — a question I posed to Sonja when she was doing a session with my team, and the many responses may help with considering what accountability means in complexity.

There’s obviously lots of stuff I haven’t mentioned because it’s already in there.

Deputy Director at National Lottery Community Fund, Co-founder of the Point People, Policy Fellow IIPP, Founder Stewarding Loss, International Futures Forum.